My late father was fond of saying that my worst quality was also my best quality. He saw me as stubborn, and with every passing year, I see a deeper level of wisdom to what he was trying to get across. I don't always know when to walk away and let something go, because it's been over for awhile. I may have in the past even, at times, managed to drag others into trying to resuscitate some threadbare project or a relationship, to no avail.
However, my sales pitch was so good that a lot of time and effort was wasted going in directions that were over and kaput, if only I'd admit it. The flip side of that, though, is that when the going gets tough, I have an amazing ability to hang in there. Some have referred to it as endurance and that's gotten me through training for a marathon, moving unexpectedly on my own from New York to Chicago, raising Louie on my own, persisting as a writer, and a whole host of other things. That's a useful trait to reach some of the bigger goals.
The tricky part in the equation is being able to recognize which of the two situations I'm in, and then taking action. In the past, I wanted to get to the action part so quickly and fix things that there was no time to figure out if I needed to go or keep moving forward, no matter how difficult. Pausing for a moment to let things unfolds would have taken some faith that most things work out and some of them take time.
But, as I've said before, I was more of a "who stole the other half of the glass kind of girl," and was always staying alert trying to prevent any upcoming disasters. Somewhere in there I also thought that meant preventing the disasters of everyone in my immediate circle, so I didn't have to deal with the fall-out there, either.
That appears generous and soft-hearted at first, but there's a lot of selfishness in there mixed with a dollop of arrogance that I'm the best one to fix it, or that I can even do anything about whatever it is.
I thought of myself as a team player, but I was really thinking of myself most of the time.
Now, as most everyone who reads this column knows, I've been trying to figure out how to get more exercise and lose weight for quite some time. It would seem that I'm often trying to accomplish that with the least amount of effort, but I'm working on that part, too. One of the things I've had to also factor in, after the cancer surgery on my leg, is a new paradigm that says "I can't do everything the way I used to do it." A flexible leg brace is necessary for almost every kind of exercise now, and I've stubbornly refused to wear it.
However, there's one exception to the list and that's rowing. I can row on an erg and get plenty of exercise and never put on the brace. I even found a great organization in Chicago -- www.RecoveryOnWater.org -- that is made up of female breast cancer survivors and founded by Jenn Gibbons, a great coach and advocate. They practice and row as a team out on the water and cheer each other on in general.
There's a catch, though, to my participating with them, because I'm a melanoma survivor and not breast cancer, which hasn't sat well with all of the team members. There's a certain camaraderie that comes with having a focused mission and a possibility that can be lost when the initial mission is widened to fit in others.
Here's where my old default method of enduring till someone made up their minds or forcing my will because I wanted to be there could have come into play for me. There are some in the group who have encouraged me to come to practice and see what happens, but by taking a moment to see things from different directions, I could see that wasn't fair to the organization or to me, and have taken a step back.
It's been tough because I realize how much I love the sport, even though I came in dead last at a recent meet, would like to be a part of the camaraderie they all share and want to go out on the water with them in a couple of weeks. But, sometimes, that's the way it is and we move along, hoping for a better day or a different opportunity.
Sometimes, being stubborn, good or bad, has to yield to what a group wants instead, and wish them all well because any group has the right to decide their own identity even if all of the rest of us don't get it. I could make an argument for what magic can happen when we open up our hands for new possibilities, and that's certainly true, but having a defined project has it's reasons as well. In the end, no one has to agree with me for them to carry on and win some races, which I hope they do this summer.
In the meantime, I've dragged out the leg brace and put it on and bought a new pair of running shoes because that's what is right in front of me to do. Plus, I've learned that as long as I'm willing to give up my idea of how things ought to look or how they have to happen, I'll end up in a better place, anyway. More adventures to follow.
Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc., newspaper syndicate. E-mail Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com.